The Ian Williams-trained First Assignment delivered a clinical victory in the Listed Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle over three miles.
Ridden by Tom O’Brien, the five-year-old son of Vinnie Roe pulled clear of his rivals in the home straight and sealed victory with a smart leap at the last to score by nine lengths.
Williams said: “It was a great performance by First Assignment to win a handicap round Cheltenham like that.
“He stepped up on his last run and we were very impressed with him today. First Assignment put the race to bed early today.
“He travelled really well. Last year he was a weak horse, but he has strengthened up a bit this year.
“He had been quiet in training this week and I was slightly anxious about running him, but he has done his job well and the world’s his oyster.
“We backed off him towards the end of the week which probably helped.
“First Assignment is entered at Haydock next week, but he will be penalised in that race.
“He isn’t a horse who is that robust, so we’ll take him back before making a decision.
“We’ll see how he comes out of this race before making other plans.
“First Assignment is very upwardly mobile and the step up in trip has helped. He is improving physically and hopefully there is more to come.
Tom O’Brien won the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle on First Assignment, but would love to sit on him in a steeplechase.
O’Brien said: “He won well – I rode him three runs ago in a novices’ hurdle at Southwell, and he’s grown into a lovely horse.
“He is very straightforward and will make a lovely chaser. He jumps well and is almost jumping hurdles like fences, which is a good thing. He feels a chaser and is going the right way.
“He handled the ground, but will probably go just as well on ground with a bit more dig.”
Boyhood finished second in the three-mile Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle, nine lengths behind the winner First Assignment, with Goodbye Dancer a neck further back in third.
Boyhood, ridden by Paddy Brennan and trained by Tom George, hadn’t run since winning the BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle here at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
George said: “I was delighted, considering he has been off the track for nearly a year. It was a good solid run with plenty to build on. We were giving the winner a stone in weight – on different terms we might see a different result.”
Brennan was pleased with the Oscar seven-year-old, saying: “It was a good run. The winner was impressive, but I’m pleased with Boyhood.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of third-placed Goodbye Dancer, under Sam Twiston-Davies, said: “That was good – we’re happy.”